John Allan denies further allegations

Barratt chair John Allan has admitted making an inappropriate comment to a female member of staff but denied reports of more serious behaviour.

A spokesperson for the long-time Barratt chair, who is also chair of retailer Tesco and was a former president of the troubled business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said he had apologised after making the comment, which he admitted, but said that all other claims were “simply untrue”.

The Guardian reported yesterday that Allan apologised to a female CBI staff member after commenting on her appearance at the CBI’s November conference in 2019, which the staff member then reported to her line manager.

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Allan’s spokesperson said the further claims were ‘simply untrue’

The newspaper also reported three other claims, based on anonymous sources, of inappropriate touching by Allan, all of which he denied. None of the claims relate to his time at Barratt.

A spokesperson for Allan said: “Mr Allan was mortified after making the comment in 2019 and he immediately apologised. The person concerned agreed the matter was closed and no further action was taken.”

The spokesperson added that the other claims were “simply untrue” but that Allan had nevertheless requested that Tesco and Fox Williams – the law firm instructed by the CBI to conduct an investigation following recent allegations of sexist behaviour at the organisation – investigate them.

Fox Williams decided not to look into the claims, Allan’s spokesperson said, adding: “Tesco are not aware of and have not received any complaints about Mr Allan’s conduct either at the 2022 AGM or over the eight years that he has been Chairman of Tesco.

“Tesco have also checked their confidential protector line – which enables anonymous complaints – and found no complaints against Mr Allan.”

A spokesperson for £5.2bn turnover Barratt, where Allan has been chair since November 2014, said: “We have clear and secure whistleblowing policies in place and have never been made aware of any concerns or allegations in relation to John Allan during his time at Barratt.”

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The reports are unlikely to be welcomed by Barratt, which has been under pressure from shareholders in recent months for its performance in terms of recruiting women to board level positions at the firm.

Last October 20% of shareholders voted against the re-election of John Allan as chair, apparently in protest at the lack of women on the Barratt board, forcing the company to re-double its efforts and launch a new inclusion strategy.

The Guardian reported that a Tesco spokesperson said: “John Allan’s conduct has never been the subject of a complaint during his tenure as chair of Tesco.”

The claims emerged as part of an investigation into wider allegations of improper behaviour at the CBI, which has already led to the dismissal of that organisation’s former director general, Tony Danker. The CBI has promised to conduct a “root-and-branch” review of its culture.